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Protocols in ecological and environmental plant physiology


Article << Previous     |     Next >>   Contents Vol 48(4)

Problems of placing boundaries on ecological continua - options for a workable national rainforest definition in Australia

A. J. J. Lynch and V. J. Neldner

Australian Journal of Botany 48(4) 511 - 530
Published: 2000


Options for a new definition of, and key for, rainforest in Australia are provided. The definitions take a national perspective, and are based on the ecological characteristics of rainforest species and some structural and floristic characteristics. Rainforest plant species are defined as those adapted to regenerating under low-light conditions experienced under the closed canopy or in localised gaps caused by recurring disturbances which are part of the natural rainforest ecosystem, and are not dependent on fire for successful regeneration. Three definitions are provided which differ in the extent of inclusion of transitional and seral communities. The first definition recognises communities such as mixed forests as transitional to rainforests and therefore as separate communities. The second definition includes a minimal component of emergent non-rainforest species in rainforest in the recognition that the main floristic component and functioning of the communities cannot be distinguished. The third definition includes the late successional stages of transitional and seral communities in rainforest on the presumption that such communities include non-rainforest species which are close to senescence, and that these communities are essential for the long-term conservation of rainforest in areas where rainforest is vulnerable and subject to major disturbance, particularly by fire. The first definition is concluded to be the least ambiguous and arbitrary, and enables a consistent approach to rainforest management. Recognition of mixed forests as a distinctive and mappable vegetation type should be incorporated in a comprehensive conservation strategy inclusive of all ecosystem developmental stages.

Full text doi:10.1071/BT97022

© CSIRO 2000

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